Aurora over Lofoten

northern lights
I am just back from an exciting trip to the Lofoten Islands, where we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on two evenings. Before I went, I was ambivalent about seeing aurora. There are so many pictures of them on the internet these days, and I had seen them before, in Canada decades ago. My purpose in going to Norway was, rather, to capture the beautiful, snow-covered landscape.Lofoten
However, when green ribbons ripped across the sky that first night on Skagsanden beach, I was as excited as anyone. I was unprepared for the raw power of the spectacle, and for how fast the lights can move. Shutter speeds as fast as 1.3″ were required and even then the lights were occasionally burnt out. It seems incredible that all this drama is silent, apart from whoops of exhilaration from onlookers. I fear photographing aurora may be addictive.
norway

Three from Thurne

Norfolk

During my trip to Norfolk last month, I had the chance to spend a large part of one day at Thurne wind pump.  I took many of the usual, landscape type shots but I also enjoyed the chance to use my long lens and capture some graphic black and white details.

Norfolk

My photographic eye tends to veer automatically to the large vistas but I want to start catching more intimate aspects of the landscapes I visit too.  It’s a new project for 2015.

Norfolk

Do you think your eye tends to favour one sort of composition to the detriment of others and is there another you’d particularly like to master too?

A turbulent evening

Brittany

During the first couple of days of my trip photographing lighthouses in Brittany earlier this month, we had some nicely changeable weather. The wind was so strong at this lighthouse, it was hard to keep the camera and tripod still enough. Black and white seemed to suit this two-toned structure.

Dawn the next day, and it was still just as windy but the sky was serene, heralding more peaceful weather ahead.  A long exposure in colour seemed the way to go.  I love going back to locations and capturing their different moods.

bretagne

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Still catching up with my 365 redux backlog. 365/66, 68 and 69 are from 2009, the year of my original, and more conventional, project 365. It’s handy to have that project to rely on when I hit a patch where I haven’t taken pictures in other years. True to my pledge, I have re-edited these. 67 is from last year, a shot previously unshared of a midge on a pieris shrub in my garden. I am enjoying seeing how my images have improved (to my eye, anyway) in the 7 years since I switched to digital, and became obsessed.

365/66

365/66

365/67

365/67

365/68

365/68

365/69

365/69

365 Backlog

derelict hut

365/60

Starting to catch up with my backlog of 365 redux images before a different sort of post tomorrow. 365/60 is from 2010, 61and 62 are from 2009 and 63 is from 2014.  365/64 is also from last year.  According to the traditional song, seven magpies is ‘for a secret never to be told’, but what about 24?  Finally, 365/65 is also from 2014, an image hitherto unprocessed from my day out shooting street images with Damian Demolder and Amateur Photographer magazine.  If you want to know more about my 365 redux project, see here.

wey navigation

365/61

poinsettia

365/62

snowdrops

365/63

magpies

365/64

street

365/65

Perros-Guirec

Brittany

I am just back from an excellent adventure photographing lighthouses along the rugged coast of Brittany, France. The trip was organised by Jonathan Critchley of Ocean Capture. Some may remember that I had a few days in France with Ocean Capture this time last year.  There will be more from Brittany soon, but this picture might be my favourite.

Silky waves, sometimes

I have been promising a post about shutter speeds and sea photography for a while. It seems I am going to do two; this is the first. Long exposure photography, achieved with ND (neutral density) filters, has become ever more popular in recent years. I enjoy it too. Adjusting the length of the exposure, even during the brightest time of day, is one way to expand the creativity of my image making. Over time, I have found that I have begun instinctively to know roughly what shutter speeds are going to achieve the effect I am after. The following pictures were all taken within an hour of each other earlier this month, at one location, Climping beach on the West Sussex coast.

Sussex coast

20″, f/16, ISO 100, 200mm, Big Stopper

The ‘Big stopper’ is a 10-stop ND filter. That is, it reduces the light getting to the sensor by 10 stops, so an exposure of 1/250th of a second becomes four seconds. The first two images here were taken using a Big Stopper. Note how in the top image, at 20″, breaking waves have become an ethereal mist, really not like water at all. Reduce the time by a half and there is more of a hint of wateriness, but not much.

sussex surf

10″, f/22, ISO 50, 140mm

At four seconds (below), some of the movement of the waves is beginning to appear.

sussex surf

4″, f/22, ISO 50, 200mm

This increases as the exposure time gets shorter.

sussex surf

1.6″, f/7.1, ISO 100, 120mm

And then (below) we begin to reach my favourite zone for capturing breaking waves, something between half a second to 1/5 usually seems to suit me – I like to capture some sense of the form and energy of the waves, but without ‘freezing’ them.

sussex surf

0.5″, f/11, ISO 100, 200mm

My favourite picture from the morning is this one, at 0.3″. I am fascinated by the way the water splashes, scattering into different directions, and this shutter speed seems to be good at capturing that with an almost painterly effect.

sussex surf

0.3″, f/11, ISO 100, 135mm

The exact shutter speed will vary with the force of the surf. My second post on this topic will be from a very different set of conditions experienced at the coast in Norfolk last week.

Finally, not every shot of the sea has to be a long exposure! Sometimes you just have to go faster. Turning round from my chosen breakwater, I saw these gulls playing chicken with the waves:

gulls and sea

1/800, f/10, ISO 200, 200mm

gulls and sea

1/1000, f/10, ISO 200, 200mm

* * * * *

A backlog of 365s: 365/59 is from 2010, taken at RHS Wisley.

leaf macro

365/59

365/58 is from 2009, when I was at my daughter’s school gathering images for their new prospectus. This one was a bit of fun, experimenting with shutter speed during a PE lesson.

gym lesson

365/58

365/57 is from 2014, taken in my garden as I started to flex my macro muscles for the forthcoming bug season. It always takes a while each year to get my macro ‘eye in’ after the winter when I tend to concentrate on the landscape.

midge macro

365/57

There may be a hiatus for a few days as I am off on an adventure. More anon.

Thank you, Light!

f11 workshops

Some of you may know that I am joint owner of a photography training business, f11 Workshops. Yesterday we ran one of our most popular tours, Piers and Wreck, on the West Sussex coast. We have been so lucky with the light on every iteration of this tour so far and yesterday was no exception. Of course, landscape photographers keep going no matter what the weather, but it is nice when things get this good.

f11 workshops

My business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I are clear that we will not make our own images when out with clients;  we just grab a few publicity snaps at the last location. We both know that photography is such an absorbing occupation that we would not be giving our customers our full attention if we were making our own images. Sometimes, when the light is this good, that’s a hard promise to keep! In the end though, having happy customers is the better reward.

*  *  *

My 365/52 is from 2010, a close up of one of the butterflies in the glasshouse at RHS Wisley.

insect macro

365/52

365/53 is from last year. Just a snap really, on what appears to be a date when I take few photos: Walton viewed from the bridge to Desborough Island.

surrey landscape

365/53